Gilas drawn with powerhouse teams in FIBA World Cup

By Alder Almo, The Philippine Star

Posted at Feb 04 2014 08:54 AM | Updated as of Feb 04 2014 07:08 PM

MANILA, Philippines -- There will be no dream match against defending champion Team USA or host Spain in the preliminary round of the 2014 FIBA World Cup.

Instead, Gilas Pilipinas will face 2004 Olympic gold medalist and currently ranked third Argentina that could be led by NBA players Manu Ginobili and Luis Scola.

The Nationals have drawn a tough group which also has Greece, Puerto Rico, Croatia and Senegal.

Greece is ranked fifth in the world followed by Croatia (16th) and Puerto Rico (17th) inside the Top 20 while Senegal is the only team ranked lower than the Philippines (34th) at 41st.

"This is a tough group. We don't have any disillusions about our group. We are going to prepare, we are going to work very hard," Gilas coach Chot Reyes said in an interview after the official draw held in Palau de la Musica Catalana in Barcelona Spain early Tuesday (Manila Time).

Reyes earlier expressed on his Twitter account (@coachot) his preference to be in Group C where he felt will give them a greater chance of advancing to the next round.

“Sayang! The 2 teams I felt kaya natin - Ukraine & Finland nasa Group C. Would've loved to be in that group. Basta #LabanPilipinas #PUSO!” Reyes posted shortly after the draw.

Bunched with Ukraine and Finland in Group C are USA, Turkey, Dominican Republic and New Zealand.

Despite not getting the luck of the draw, Reyes remained upbeat especially that they will play in Sevilla where there is a large Filipino community.

"We are very proud to be drawn in a group with Argentina and some really superpowers like Croatia playing in Sevilla. We like the fact that we're playing in the city of Sevilla. We know we have quite a big Filipino population in Sevilla so we expect a lot of our countrymen to watch live apart from the people from the Philippines who will fly over to Spain," Reyes said.

"For a team like the Philippines, there is really no easy group for us in a competition like this. In my mind, I had mentally prepared psychologically that we'll be up against very very tough competition," he added.

The Philippines is returning to the world stage after 35 years of absence by ending up second in the FIBA Asia qualifiers last year.

Their groupmates Puerto Rico, which might feature former PBA import Renaldo Balkman, also finished second in the FIBA Americas while Argentina, Croatia and Senegal all wound up third in their respective zonal qualifiers. Greece, meanwhile, is one of top four wildcard entries.

In the groupings, host Spain is in Group A together with France, Egypt, Iran, Serbia, and Brazil while Group D has Slovenia, Lithuania, Angola, Korea, Mexico, and Australia.